UPDATE, with more detail after 1:47AM post: Confirming what we reported in the wee hours of Saturday morning (see below), Disney has announced that James Cameron’s Avatar has once again become the highest-grossing film of all time at the global box office, overtaking Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame. This is thanks to a China reissue which began on Friday and which through its first two days has added an estimated RMB 80M ($12.3M) to the total haul for the Na’vi.
Disney now puts Avatar’s worldwide gross at an estimated $2.802B versus Endgame’s $2.797B. Avatar, which now falls under the Disney umbrella after the Fox acquisition, first became the top-selling global release of all time in 2010 when it passed Cameron’s own 1997 Titanic. In July 2019, Endgame overtook Avatar — and now the latter is back on top.
Avatar producer Jon Landau said today, “We are proud to reach this great milestone, but Jim and I are most thrilled that the film is back in theaters during these unprecedented times, and we want to thank our Chinese fans for their support. We are hard at work on the next Avatar films and look forward to sharing the continuation of this epic story for years to come.”
PREVIOUS, SATURDAY 1:47AM PT: As has been expected over the past few days, James Cameron’s Avatar has swapped places with Avengers: Endgame, reclaiming the title of highest-grossing movie ever worldwide. The China reissue of the 2009 3D sci-fi phenomenon had taken an estimated RMB 58M ($8.9M) through 5PM local time on Saturday after re-releasing on Friday in the market. This closes and surpasses what was a $7.82M gap between the two films prior to China’s resissue. Disney/Marvel’s Endgame previously snapped up the top global crown from Avatar in July 2019. The current (and fluid) Avatar global total is an estimated $2,798,579,794 versus Endgame‘s $2,797,501,328.
The numbers on Avatar, which was originally released in China in early 2010 and grossed nearly $203M at the time — a massive figure before the market began to expand exponentially — will continue to grow throughout the rest of today and into the coming days. The film currently leads pre-sales through Tuesday in the Middle Kingdom.
Avatar currently has a 9.2 score on Maoyan, up from an earlier 9.1, and the service is projecting an RMB 378.2M ($58M) finish for the reissue. There is runway ahead with not much else in the way of big-ticket offerings until Warner Bros/Legendary’s Godzilla Vs Kong, which is dated on March 26.
We expect Disney (which owns both Avatar and Endgame) to provide official numbers later today and will update accordingly.
A China Avatar re-release had been long mooted, but the film suddenly popped onto the calendar earlier this week. It is out on most of the IMAX network and in 3D (formats that are embraced in China), and is the first non-local film to lead the weekend box office in China this year. This session it is pushing Chinese New Year phenom Hi Mom down to second place.
Speaking to China.org on Thursday, Cameron said the film is just as relevant today as it was when it released more than a decade ago. “We’ve got climate change, we’ve got deforestation, our relationship with nature is more at risk than it’s ever been, and Avatar is about those things, but it also is a timeless film. Some people criticize the stories for being too simple. It wasn’t that simple — it was universal. It was something that everybody everywhere could understand and emotionally related to.” It’s worth noting that Avatar has had a handful of re-releases since its original run, whereas Endgame made essentially all of its money in 2019.
Cameron has been working busily on the sequels. Disney has scheduled Avatar 2 for Dec. 16, 2022; part 3 for Dec. 20, 2024; part 4 for Dec. 18, 2026; and part five for Dec. 22, 2028.
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